I have tried several techniques when making control panels. Each technique has its own pros and cons.
The simplest technique involves first painting a piece of masonite hardboard one colour and letting the paint completely cure. Next apply some sort of tape depicting the track plan. Next paint a contrasting colour over the entire piece using either a roller, a brush, a rattle can or an airbrush. Once this paint has dried the tape is gently removed - to reveal a nice crisp image of the track plan. NOT SO FAST. . . . . . Invariably, no matter the type of tape used, how carefully its edges were pressed down to ensure that the second coat of paint would not bleed under the tape or the method of applying the second coat it will always bleed, making a mess.
Sometime in the last year or so I read an article in Model Railroader Magazine which offered a very simple solution to this problem. After the tape has been applied, paint over the entire piece using the SAME colour that was used for the first coast (i.e., it is the SAME colour as the lines will be). Of course some of this paint bleeds under the edges of the tape but that doesn't matter - because it is the same colour. This second coat has the effect of sealing any gaps that might remain under the edges of the tape. Once this second coat of paint is dry, apply the contrasting paint. Once the contrasting paint is dry to the touch but not completely set the tape is removed, leaving nice crisp edges. Thank you Model Railroader Magazine!
Instead of one or two large control panels, my current layout includes several very small control panels that control the track within a few feet of the panel - I like to move about the layout with the trains rather than having to sit in one place. Following are three of these small panels before any paint is applied. You can see the pencil lines where the tape will be applied as well as holes drilled to accommodate toggle switches, push buttons and LED lights.
|After applying grey paint with a roller|
|After applying tape to the grey painted surface|
|My preferred tape for this purpose. It is easily curved to make smooth corners and has clean edges (is a plastic tape).|
|After a coat of grey paint has been applied with a roller over the entire surface|